Alamo Winter Texan Spreads Donate Life Message across the RGV
by Rocio Villalobos
Don Uecker has spoken before hundreds of people to share his wife Darlene’s story. She died in 2011 and has since helped give life to more than 100 people across 23 different U.S. states — and even one person in South Korea — as an organ, eye, and tissue donor.
Don spends his winters at Alamo’s Casa Del Valle Resort and the rest of his time back home in Webster, Minnesota. This is his twenty-first year at the park, and for close to a decade, he has volunteered with the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) to encourage people to become organ donors
“Anybody that’s willing to stop for 30 seconds, I’ll talk to them,” said Uecker. “I’ll talk to anybody just to get the word out.”
In 2013, Donate Life, a nonprofit working to increase the number of organ donors, invited Uecker and one of Darlene’s daughters to its annual Rose Parade, held in California, where his wife was to be one of the 72 donors honored on their float.
“We got to go out to where they were decorating the float and actually place a rose,” he said. “Every year I still donate two roses.”
This experience gave him inspiration to continue advocating for ‘donating life’ by visiting hospitals, local organizations, and even Vipers games during halftime to talk about the impact one can have by registering as an organ donor. He is especially busy with events and speaking engagements in April, National Donate Life Month.
According to Donate Life, as a donor, a person can save more than 70 lives. But in Darlene’s case, she was able to save 130.
Don learned that the youngest person Darlene helped save was a five year old and the oldest 75.
Last year, Uecker visited GenCure, a regenerative medicine facility in San Antonio, to tour the facility and learn about the process of storing organs and tissue for future use.
“It was amazing to be able to see it. They showed me how they get it ready and how they can keep it for five years,” Don said. “And they’re hoping to extend that time period.”
In addition to his involvement with Donate Life, Uecker stays active in his park by leading a five-times-a-week, 8 a.m. exercise class, volunteering with the kitchen crew for Tuesday jams, and being a part of the First Responders group.
When someone is in need of help, he adds, “They have my number. They can give me a call.”
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